Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Be more creative... but don't change anything?

This blog post is a little bit off the wall, I have to admit. So as I may not have mentioned, I run a Final Fantasy XIII Fansite, so I'm definitely anticipating the game. It has been an interesting experience to see the reviews trickle in, both in English and Japanese. They are definitely a mixed bag; some praise the game as revolutionary, others say it's a mediocre game with pretty pictures.

Basically, the criticism is largely coming from the fact that the game apparently breaks from the traditional Final Fantasy formula in many ways. This makes me think about the constant outcries from gamers for developers to give them new games instead of just rehashing the old ones. It just seems kind of odd when many of the same people berate FF13 for doing too much new. It's just a lose/lose situation it seems. I mean, geeze, it's the 13th game in the main series, shouldn't they be changing a lot of stuff along the way of 13 games and numerous spin offs?

I guess it just goes to show how conflicted gamers are. They want to recreate the magic of old, but get bored sometimes when games actually try to recreate it. It seems like lots of gamers are saying "give me something new, but don't change anything!" How oxymoronic! :)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

PS3: Purchased.

So I took the plunge today and bought a PS3. It was a $349 bundle that came with a 250 GB PS3, Uncharted (first one), and Infamous. I got it all hooked up and updated and played Infamous for about 30 minutes and Uncharted for 30 minutes. I'm not sure how much I like them so far, but I'll find out more as I get more time to play. I also video taped my unboxing process and posted it on YouTube. It's the first time I've filmed anything, so I wasn't sure how to go about it; I just set the camera down and sort of tried to play to it. If nothing else it shows what came with it. Here it is:

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Better late than never... right?

The almighty developers at Blizzard have inspired this post. As some of you may or may not have heard, they recently came out and said there is no way that Diablo 3 will come out in 2010. This is no surprise to me; I have been expecting a 2011 release date for a while now. I am a bit worried by them actually coming out and saying something though. If they have said it'll be at least 2011 before it comes out, my money is on 2012 or maybe even later given their track record of delaying releases; what game of theirs hasn't been delayed? (Looking at you Starcraft 2 installments)

Blizzard is one of my favorite developers; they always put out a top of the line product. Nintendo, another one of my favorite developers, has also always taken the same approach in terms of delaying to ensure that the game that comes out is a good one. Shigeru Miyamoto said something to the effect of "A bad game that is released on time is always bad; a delayed game will eventually be good." Right on, I agree with that sentiment. But let's look at Diablo 3 for a second. Diablo 2 came out in 1999; Diablo 3 will come out in 2011 at the earliest. That's 12 years apart. The game will end up having 7 or more years of development time. (I believe they said that they started around 2004, maybe earlier)

So here's my problem: if it's going to take 7 years for a top-notch developer to create a good game, aren't quality games going to become fewer and farther between in the future? I sincerely hope that Diablo 3 turns out to be one of the greatest games of all time, but if it doesn't I'm going to bemoan the amount of time that I've waited for it. This complaint stands in stark contrast to the shovelware problem on the Nintendo Wii, so I'm not really angry about the development time, it just makes me wonder. However the game turns out it will still sell millions of copies and make Blizzard millions of dollars and should at the least be a good game. But since Blizzard decided to let us know it was in development 3+ years prior to its release, it's going to be a painful wait...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Retro Gaming Kick

Do you ever go through a phase where you decide to go back and play every single old game that you own? It seems like I've been doing it for as long as I can remember. When the SNES was the new kid on the block, I'd still go back occasionally and hook up the old NES for some Zelda and Duck Hunt action. After toying with the N64 for a while, I'd hook up the SNES for a change up, and so on and so forth. I've been on my most recent retro gaming kick for about 6 months now; I'm not very in tune with the current generation of games. Seeing that I'm too old to go to Mommy and Daddy every time I want a new game, obviously the low prices of PSX and PS2 games appealed to me, but at the same time it really is just fun to go back for a while.

It seems like the RPG is a bit of a timeless genre. With each new generation prettier pictures and new gimmicks are added, but in many cases the core gameplay is essentially the same as it was ten years ago. Powerful story elements are just as poignant as they were when text dialogue was the norm and the idea of voice acting didn't cross anyone's mind. I've pretty much discovered the entire Final Fantasy series and played through most of it, all since June earlier this year. I go back and play through Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross each at least once a year. The journey through an RPG seems to age much better than your typical FPS or adventure game.

A more recent development in my retro kick has been bringing back the GameBoy. My roommate and I, two young adults, have been preparing all week for a massive showdown in Pokémon. (Yes, I remember how to do the accent mark on the e after all these years) Sure, it was considered a fad back when we were 11 years old, but it turns out the game itself is fun even more than 10 years after it was released. True, friends laugh when they walk in and see us playing it, but who cares? It took up a fairly large part of my 5th grade year, investing more than 200 hours into my Blue version and likely a similar amount in my Red and Yellow versions. Who knew it would take up a fairly large part of my Junior year in college as well? (Very different meaning on the term "fairly large" though)

I've been enjoying going back through all my old games much more than any new game I've picked up in the past two years. I just wish Sony could read this and understand why I would actually value some backwards compatibility in a PS3...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Video Game Music Lens

So earlier today I decided to start a lens on for Video Game Music. It's kind of like a wikipedia/fansite/whatever you want it to be combination. You can check it out here. So basically, I'm curious: what do you think should be put on there? I have very basic information about websites like OCRemix and the Play! and Video Games Live world tours, but are there any other VGM resources that I'm missing? I'd just like for it to be a place that can direct the video game music fan in the direction of anything that they might enjoy. Hopefully it will mature into something that all fans of VGM can appreciate.

On a separate note, I also made a lens about Final Fantasy XIII that can be checked out here if you would like.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Chrono Trigger/Cross Top 10 Songs

So in addition to my Final Fantasy top 10, I decided to also make a Chrono Trigger/Cross top 10. I had a much harder time narrowing down the list with this one than with the Final Fantasy one even though there were only 2 games. The 2 games are my all time favorites though, so it was difficult, but here's the list.

10. The Dream that Time Dreams (CC)

I liked this one because it has such a grand feel to it. Mitsuda uses percussion masterfully on the entire game soundtrack, and this one has a nice beat to get it going too. The violin that comes in after a bit, just like the rest of the strings used throughout the soundtrack, is wonderful. Just a great song.

9. Millenial Fair (CT)

This song is 100% perfect for the setting that it is played in; every part of the music screams lighthearted fun which is the vibe that a fair generally has. It epitomizes the mostly fun and upbeat nature of the Chrono Trigger soundtrack. It's also one of the more memorable tracks because you hear it right at the beginning of the game.

8. At the Bottom of the Night (CT)

There's just something about the music box sound that this song has that makes it incredibly sad. Personally, I always picture the part where Robo's "brothers" are beating him to pieces when I hear this. It's quite simple, but very powerful and moving. Most of the game is happy and upbeat, but whenever this played it always made for a very emotionally powerful situation

7. Frog's Theme (CT)

This has got to be one of, if not the best character themes that I've heard from any game. If I had to pick one word to describe the song, it would be "noble", which surprisingly enough is the same word I'd pick to describe Frog. Just like every other track in the game, this one fits the situation it is used for like a glove. Plus, doesn't everyone love this triumphant theme?

6. To Far Away Times (CT)

This song rolls during the credits and it sums up the entire adventure quite nicely. It sounds so incredibly hopeful that you just can't help but smile. It makes for a perfect ending to a perfect game. (We can debate my use of the word perfect, but it's an amazing game at least)

5. Time of World Revolution (CT)

This song has a lot going on at once. It starts out normal enough, but once that crazy background synth comes in it really picks it up. The entire song features what is almost like a duel between Lavos' theme and Crono's theme, which is pretty cool considering this is part of the epic showdown between the two. Also, the trumpet bit that plays is one of my favorite pieces of music period. This song makes this stage of the final battle as intense as it should be.

4. Battle with Magus (CT)

In a word this song is just epic. Combine the wind sound at the beginning with Magus' line about the black wind howling and it sends chills down your spine. It has that eerie feel that the other tracks in Magus' castle had but then explodes into the extremely dramatic main bit. This track almost single handedly makes the Battle with Magus the most memorable in the entire game.

3. Corridor of Time (CT)

Every time I hear this I can't believe that it was made for the Super Nintendo. The wide variety of sounds that are utilized are just things that I had never heard from a video game in that era. This tune fits the floating kingdom of Zeal perfectly, with its mesmerizing and dreamlike sounds. The instrument that handles the melody, I believe it's a Sitar or something of the like, is quite poignant and works so well with the background music. The best track in the entire game in my opinion.

2. On the Beach of Dreams - Another World (CC)

I remember that back in the day I used to turn on my Playstation and just let it idle while this song played. It somehow manages to be relaxing and dramatic all at the same time... it just defies my description. This song is sublime and the best overworld theme I've heard in a game by a long shot.

1. Scars of Time (CC)

Have you ever seen the intro to Chrono Cross? I saw it once and went out and bought a Playstation just to play the game. I included the entire song in my video because you can't just isolate one part of it; the entire progression is simply amazing. The intro is pretty good, but once it picks up the pace and those fierce violins come in, it becomes something special. I think I've mentioned the strings in this game's soundtrack before... well just listen to this song and you'll see why I can't get enough of the violins. It's just about the coolest thing I've ever heard when the violins come in for the first time. Summary? Ultimate intro song, ultimate game song... maybe even just ultimate song period.

So there's the list. I would include honorable mentions, but to be honest, I'd be listing almost the entire soundtrack from both games, so just keep in mind that I like every song from both games. As usual, I encourage you to make your own list and share it!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Top 10 Final Fantasy Songs

So I posted a video on YouTube counting down my Top 10 favorite Final Fantasy Songs; I figured that I would write a little explanation about each of my choices.

10. Vamo' Alla Flamenco (FFIX)

I love the Spanish influence that this song has. It helps that it was also played during one of the more fun parts of the game when Zidane was sword-fighting on stage. It's not overly emotional or anything, but this song always struck me as just being fun. Sometimes you can't explain why, you just like a song!

9. The Man with the Machine Gun (FFVIII)

Although I was quite confused at first, the segments of the game where you got to play as Laguna and company ended up being my favorite parts of the game. A significant reason as to why I enjoyed those parts was the music that played whenever you got into battles. This song is upbeat and has a nice ambient feel to it; basically it's just one of those songs that I can't help but nod my head to as I am listening to it.

8. You Are Not Alone (FFIX)

This song played during one of the more dramatic points in FFIX and I felt like it really captured the feel very well. I enjoy the progression that it makes, as it starts out very plain, then comes in with the flute (or whatever) before going into the electric guitar bit. All in all it's my favorite song from FFIX.

7. Terra (FFVI)

This song is just one of the ultimate overworld map themes that I've heard. This is the song that comes to mind when I think of FFVI. The bassline that keeps repeating itself feels like something that you should march to, and the flute that comes over the top of it is absolutely masterful. I found myself stopping on the world map just to hear this tune out on more than one occasion.

6. Boss Battle (FFIV)

This song epitomizes early era Final Fantasy games to me. While the more recent games explored more modern areas and often had more ambient, rock influenced music, the originals had a very European Middle Ages feel to them. This song fits boss battles perfectly due to how dramatic it is. Every time this came on it had me on the edge of my seat and made the game feel a lot faster paced than it actually was. Just a great song.

5. A Fleeting Dream (FFX)

Whenever you finally got to Zanarkand in FFX it had a very surreal, dreamlike feel to it. This song set the tone perfectly. The exhaling noise (that's what I think it sounds like) that constantly floats in the background works absolute wonders. Combined with the slightly modified melody from Suteki Da Ne it made for a very emotional trip through Zanarkand.

4. Cosmo Canyon (FFVII)

Cosmo Canyon felt almost as if it were inhabited by a Native American tribe with the dwellings in the mountain and the very nature-conscious inhabitants. The pulsing drum beat that plays in the background helps enhance this Native American feel significantly. Once the flute finally comes in, it has a really entrancing melody and builds up to a very dramatic climax. I always loved going to Cosmo Canyon just because of this song.

3. Seymour Battle (FFX)

When I first got to Seymour Omnis, he beat the pants off my team. Therefore I decided to do sidequests and picked up Anima. When I finally went back, I beat him extremely quickly. Because of that I never got to fully experience this song. If you put on headphones while you listen to this, it's like an orgasmic explosion of sound in both ears. It has a nice beat going in the background and the ambient sounds that come in from all over the place make this song very intense. This song is just plain awesome.

2. Still More Fighting (FFVII)

When I think of FFVII, One Winged Angel is NOT the song that comes to mind. Instead, I think of Still More Fighting as the song that defined the game to me. The way that it opens up with the crunchy guitar sound fits in perfectly with the polluted setting of the slums in Midgar. It's very upbeat, as any boss battle song should be, and gets you going when you're fighting a boss. I'd be satisfied if it just continued the opening bit the entire time, but when the synthesizer comes in at just over a minute in it adds a whole new level. It's hard to fully explain, but I wish that every fight in the game used this song because it's simply that cool.

1. To Zanarkand (FFX)

I have to confess that FFX was my favorite game in the series. It focused on the story in a way that no other game I had played had and managed to do it in a compelling manner as well. One of the keys to story telling in any game is the music, and this song was the emotional climax of the game to that point. The entire story came to a head when the group meets Zanarkand, and the music captures the emotion of the situation perfectly as Tidus watches Yuna march onward willingly towards her death and he can't think of any way to stop her. (I would lot this one in with the "Ending Theme" as well since they both utilize the Zanarkand melody)

So there you have it: my top 10 Final Fantasy songs. You don't agree? I don't expect you to! But I do encourage you to make your own list and reply with it or post it as a video response on YouTube. I'll leave you with some honorable mentions of songs that were close, but didn't quite make the cut.

Honorable Mentions:
FF7: Anxious Heart, Oppressed People, Aeris' Theme
FF8: Balamb Garden
FF9: Rose of May
FF10: Otherworld, Auron's Theme, Servants of the Mountain, Spira Unplugged, Besaid, Silence Before the Storm